The undulating plains at the foot of Nuʻuanu Pali are known as Kekele (damp;) it was a place that was fragrant with hala (pandanus) blossoms and bountiful in hala fruit for lei-making.
It was referred to in songs and traditions as “the sweet land of fragrance and perfume” because the fragrance from the blossoms of these trees scented the whole region. (Cypher; Cultural Surveys)
English Captain George Vancouver introduced cattle and sheep to O‘ahu in 1793, and by the 1840s cattle had multiplied into a large herd.
A description from the Pali looking toward Kaneohe in 1854 revealed that there were “hundreds of cattle … feeding on the rich pasture with which these plains were covered.”
By the mid-1860s, livestock was altering the landscape. The undulating plains of the Kekele lands were described as “a rich land a while ago but now there are not many plants because animal are permitted there.” (Cultural Surveys)
In the 1860s, commercial sugar cane cultivation began in Kāne‘ohe. One of the earliest sugar plantations on O‘ahu was owned by Charles Coffin Harris, who came to Hawai‘i in 1850 with a plan to practice law. He established the Kaneohe Sugar Plantation Company (ca. 1865.)
In 1871, Harris bought Queen Kalama’s Ko‘olaupoko properties from her heir, Charles Kanaina, as well as some land in Honolulu for $22,448. The sale included “livestock, tool, fishponds, and fishing rights.”
Harris’s plantation shut down in 1891 because the sugar yield was not enough to support the operation. Harris’s daughter and heir, Mrs. David Rice, incorporated the lands as Kaneohe Ranch and converted them to ranching.
Harold KL Castle, the only child of James B. Castle, owned most of the ahupua‘a of Kāne‘ohe in the early 1900s, and in 1917 he purchased 9,500 acres of land from Harris’s daughter. (At its peak, Kaneohe Ranch extended from the ocean in Kailua to the Pali and included 12,000-acres and 2,000-head of cattle.)
By 1911, Libby, McNeill & Libby gained control of land in Kāneʻohe and built the first large-scale cannery with an annual capacity of 250,000 cans at Kahaluʻu, Koʻolaupoko on the Windward side of O‘ahu; growing and canning pineapples became a major industry in the area for a period of 15 years (to 1925.)
This sizable cannery, together with the surrounding old style plantation-type housing units, became known as “Libbyville” (St John’s by the Sea now occupies the site.)
During most of the period when this cannery was in operation, the canned pineapple was transported to Honolulu by sampan from a pier just off the end of the peninsula at Wailau.
At its peak, 2,500 acres were under pineapple cultivation on Windward O‘ahu, and of this a large percentage was in the Kāne‘ohe Bay region (below the Pali.)
“At last we reached the foot of the Pali … Joe and I looked over the surrounding hills, but looked in vain for the great areas of guava through which but a few months ago we had fought and cut our way. As far as the eye could reach pineapple plantations had taken the place of the forest of wild guava.” (Cultural Surveys)
Then, in 1943, the Army established a regimental combat team training center at the foot of the Pali, emphasizing the use of and familiarity with modern arms and field weapons. In addition, the camp provided rugged terrain for jungle and Ranger training.
The training area comprised of four non-contiguous parcels: Maunawili Valley Impact Area, covering approximately 3,450-acres; the Maunawili site (near St Stephens Seminary,) 400-acres; a 46-acre site on the northern ridge of Mount Olomana; and the 500-acre site called Ulumawao.
The Pali Training Camp was situated in what is now the municipal Pali Golf Course, privately owned Ko’olau Golf Course and Hawaii Pacific University.
Troops were housed in a sprawling tent city at the base of Nuʻuanu Pali capable of supporting 3,000 to 5,000-individuals. In addition to barracks, the encampments also contained latrines, showers, mess halls, administration buildings, and motor pools.
Additional barracks, an ice plant, a bakery, and gun pits were situated at Maunawili. A field hospital was erected at what is now Maunawili Park.
Camp training facilities consisted of 200 and 300-yard rifle ranges, a 1,000-inch range, four obstacle courses, an infiltration course, a combat in cities course, a close combat course, and a 400-yard long jungle firing course.
On October 8, 1945, Army Headquarters ordered the release of the Pali Training Camp and the encampment was abandoned by the end of 1945. By the end of 1946, military-erected structures were subsequently sold as surplus by bid sale.
The land reverted to its previous use of cattle ranching in 1946. Since being sold to the City and County of Honolulu in the early 1950s, much the property has been graded and developed into the Pali Golf Course.
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